6 Things You Need To Know About Asbestos

by Laurence Kellett in Workplace Safety | posted:


Every week, 4 plumbers, 6 electricians, and 8 joiners will die from exposure to asbestos

Source: http://www.hse.gov.uk/asbestos/basics.htm


So what is it?

Asbestos is a material often used in buildings. Before its dangers were known, it was widely used for insulation, flooring and roofing. It was also used as pipe insulation and sprayed on ceilings and walls. But it eventually became clear that asbestos can cause serious damage to the lungs. This happens when people breathe in asbestos dust. For this reason, it is now banned in the UK. However, buildings that were constructed before the year 2000 may still have asbestos in them.


What does it look like?

Asbestos comes in many shapes, sizes and colours. The three main types are blue, brown and white asbestos, which are found in many building products. But as it was often mixed with other materials it can be hard to recognise and determine if its apparent.

Where can it be found?

Asbestos was used in building materials as such as:


  • Cement

  • Textured coatings

  • Floor tiles, textiles and composites

  • Lagging

  • Ceiling or floor cavity

  • Insulating boards

  • Sprayed coatings on ceilings, walls and beams/columns

  • Roofing shingles


How do you know you have it?

As stated before, asbestos is mixed with other materials and so therefore is tough to identify without thorough professional testing. This means that if you have not yet had your premises surveyed and materials could be older than 13 years old, you must bring in a UKAS accredited contractor. This means the professional service can then find out if you do have the dangerous fibre present in your building.


Conditions caused by Asbestos

Breathing asbestos dust can damage the lungs and lead to some very serious lung conditions. The symptoms take many years – even decades – to appear. So exposure a long time ago might only be showing up as a disease today. Some of these conditions are malignant (cancerous), and some are not.


Cancers (malignant):

  • Lung cancer

  • Mesothelioma


Non-cancer (benign):

  • Asbestosis

  • Pleural plaques

  • Pleural thickening


What needs doing if you have it?

In most cases, a maintenance plan is the best option. It involves less mess and risk than removal. Maintenance of asbestos is not an easy job, especially for someone untrained, therefore making sure you bring in a professional for surveying is essential. Their knowledge, safety apparatus and appropriate equipment can make sure the asbestos is clearly identified and maintained in a safe and secure way.


Don’t chance it…

Asbestos was used in hundreds of different products and buildings from the 1950s to the mid 1980s. Asbestos cement was used up until 1999 in a variety of different premises and materials. Therefore, if you have a building materials which could be 13+ years older then you need to make sure you have a survey to see if asbestos is present.